Over the past years the performance of the Metal Forming Division has been shaped by a series of strategic measures including structural adjustments to the portfolio as well as the implementation of a consistent growth strategy, with the global application of key technologies in qualitatively and technologically sophisticated market segments. The successful realization of the division’s reorientation is reflected in the continuous improvement in profitability over the past years. In continuing this trend, the Metal Forming Division has also performed solidly in the business year 2016/17, posting excellent operating results, especially in the fourth quarter.
The strategic focus of the Automotive Components business segment lies in the gradual expansion of production sites outside Europe, primarily in North America and China, in order to supply chiefly European premium automobile manufacturers with assembled, high-strength components. Supported by an excellent economic climate in the automotive market both in Europe and overseas, capacity utilization in this business segment was at a high level for the entire duration of the business year. European car sales, driven by all the manufacturers, have strongly improved for the third year in succession. Furthermore, there has been a massive rise in car registrations in the premium sector in China over the past years. In contrast, the trend in the USA during the calendar year 2016 was only sideward, although at a high level.
In 2016/17 the Tubes & Sections business segment exhibited a generally satisfactory performance which, as in previous years, was characterized by large regional differences. Demand was uneven both globally and within continental Europe. For instance, despite nascent insecurities following the Brexit referendum, Great Britain’s construction industry remained dynamic, while the mood in the core Western European markets was only average in comparison. Equally, recovery in the agricultural and construction machinery segment was only gradual, while the performance of Europe’s commercial vehicles industry was significantly better. After a long phase of decline the Brazilian economy was able to slow its deterioration slightly, but it still remains some way from a real turnaround. There were temporary fluctuations in call-offs in the US aerospace sector during the past business year, not least due to consolidation measures in customers’ value chains. With the acquisition of the Canadian Summo Corporation (see “Acquisitions” chapter) the Tubes & Sections business segment has risen to become the North American market leader for passive safety components for the automotive industry.
The Precision Strip business segment recorded an excellent performance during the past business year, attributable both to its continuously strengthened market position as well as a positive market development. It was also supported by the successful integration of a US-based company acquired in the business year 2015/16, allowing the business segment to significantly expand its market presence in North America’s special steel strip sector. Overall, in 2016/17 the market conditions for this segment in Europe and China improved slightly, while remaining positive in the USA.
In view of the continuing attractive project landscape for customized high bay warehouses and system racks, the Warehouse & Rack Solutions business segment was able to extend its excellent performance of past years into 2016/17. As the result of strategic partnerships with automation companies and driving forward projects for complete solutions which cover the entire value chain, as well as a sustained robust economy (especially in ecommerce), this positive trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.